Returning to Ireland and having a baby
If you or your partner are pregnant, you need to know about the maternity care system in Ireland and the benefits and supports available to you.
If you have a baby when you return to live in Ireland, you can access maternity care through the public health system.
You may plan on having your baby using private health services. If you intend to take out private health insurance to help cover the costs, you should know there is a 52 week waiting period for maternity related claims. You can read more in Returning to Ireland and buying private health insurance.
This document outlines what you need to know about having a baby in Ireland and directs you to further information.
Can I access maternity care in the public health system?
In Ireland, your entitlement to use public health services is based on your residency. It is not linked to your income or to your payment of tax or social insurance. Therefore, if you are returning to Ireland to live and you plan to have a baby here, you will be entitled to public health maternity care under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
This Scheme provides an agreed programme of care to all expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. You are ordinarily resident if you have been living in Ireland for at least a year or if you intend to live here for at least one year.
Under the Scheme, you are entitled to free GP visits and hospital visits related to your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. This service is provided by a family doctor (GP) of your choice and a hospital obstetrician. You are entitled to this free service even if you do not have a medical card or a GP visit card.
Care for illnesses that are not related to your pregnancy are not covered by the Scheme. This means that if you need to see your GP about a non-pregnancy related illness (such as asthma), normal GP charges will apply (unless you have a medical card or a GP visit card).
You can find out more in our document on maternity and infant care services.
Can I get paid maternity leave from work?
If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to maternity leave. You can get maternity leave from work regardless of how long you have been working for a company or the number of hours worked per week. It includes casual workers.
You can take up to 42 weeks off work, for maternity leave. This is usually made up of 26 weeks’ paid leave (if you are eligible) and a further 16 weeks’ unpaid leave. You do not have to take the unpaid leave.
While you are on maternity leave, you may be entitled to Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Maternity Benefit is a payment made to women who are on maternity leave from work and have enough Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions.
Maternity Benefit is paid at a standard weekly rate of €245 in 2019 for 26 weeks.
If you do not have enough PRSI contributions from your employment in Ireland, you may be able to use social insurance contributions paid in a country covered by EU Regulations including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. You must be in insurable employment in Ireland and have paid your most recent PRSI contribution in Ireland.
You can find out more about qualifying for Maternity Benefit and how to apply.
Your employer does not have to pay you when you are on maternity leave. Some employers may offer paid maternity leave and you should check your employment contract to see what applies to you. If your employer pays you while you are on maternity leave, you may have to transfer payment of your Maternity Benefit to your employer.
Can I get paid paternity leave from work?
New parents (not including the mother of the child) are entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment or self-employment after the birth or the adoption of a child.
You can start paternity leave at any time within the first 6 months of the birth or the adoption placement.
Paternity Benefit is paid at a standard weekly rate of €245 in 2019.
You can find out more about qualifying for Paternity Benefit and how to apply.
Your employer does not have to pay you when you are on paternity leave. Some employers may offer paid paternity leave and you should check your employment contract to see what applies to you. If your employer pays you while you are on paternity leave, you may have to transfer the payment of your Paternity Benefit to your employer.
Can I get parental leave?
You are entitled to unpaid parental leave of 18 working weeks (or 90 days) per child. It must be taken before your child turns 8 (this will be extended to 12 from 1 September 2019).
Both parents have an equal and separate entitlement to parental leave for each child. This means that in a family with 2 children, each parent is entitled to a total of 180 parental leave days (90 days for the first child plus 90 days for the second child).
Parental leave for parents of eligible children will increase from 18 weeks to 22 weeks from 1 September 2019 and from 22 to 26 weeks from 1 September 2020. (If you have already taken some, or all of the current entitlement to 18 weeks parental leave, you will still get the extra eight weeks of parental leave, if your child is still eligible.)
Generally, you must have been working for your employer for one year before you are entitled to parental leave – although some employers offer the option of parental leave immediately.
The legislation for parental leave provides for only the minimum entitlement. Your contract of employment may give you more leave or other entitlements. You can find out more in our document on parental leave. You can also read a case study on taking parental leave.
Coming soon: a new Parental Benefit scheme
A new paid Parental Benefit Scheme that allows parents to take two weeks paid leave each during their child’s first year is expected from November 2019. Legislation needs to be enacted before this change can come into effect.
After your baby is born
You will need to register the birth of your child no later than 3 months after their birth. Registration is a legal requirement in Ireland, but you will also need a birth certificate to enrol your child in school, to apply for a passport and for many other purposes. Read more about Registering the birth of your baby.
When you register the birth of a baby who is born in Ireland, the Department of Employement Affairs and Social Protection will automatically contact you about Child Benefit.
Read more about the supports available to you after your baby is born.